VIENNA—The White House is targeting Jewish groups in its latest push to blunt congressional criticism of an Iran deal that observers expect to be sealed in the coming days, according to a recording of a strategy conference call obtained by the Washington Free Beacon and experts familiar with the call.
The White House’s liaison to the Jewish community on Monday advised dozens of progressive groups to push a poll commissioned and distributed by the liberal fringe group J Street, which has been defending a deal with Iran.
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Matt Nosanchuk, an official in the White House Office of Public Engagement, who also serves as Jewish liaison, cited J Street’s poll and urged liberal activists present on the call to cite its numbers when defending a deal with Iran.
The private strategy call, which included more than 100 participants, was organized by the Ploughshares Fund, a liberal group that has spent millions of dollars to slant Iran-related coverage and protect the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts.
Nosanchuk told participants there is support for the deal "within the Jewish community, where J Street has recently done a poll that shows even in that community when you describe the terms of a deal you have upwards of 78 percent of respondents supporting it."
Virtually all polling stretching back several months, including polling featured on conservative and progressive outlets, shows that while Americans are divided on the wisdom of negotiations, they believe that a deal would not prevent Iran from constructing a nuclear weapon.
Critics of J Street’s poll have pointed out that it polled respondents on a hypothetical deal that does not actually exist.
J Street, which has received money from Ploughshares, has long been viewed as a pariah in the mainstream Jewish community. The group’s consistent attacks on Israel and criticism of its policies has unnerved and angered many Jewish leaders, including some in Congress.
"The lies this White House and its allies will tell about this deal seem to know no bounds, and now there exists the audiotape to prove it," said a top official with a leading pro-Israel group. "No matter the facts of the deal, they will send Americans to lie to each other to further Obama’s legacy."
Nosanchuk went on to tell participants that the issue of Iran has been the president’s chief priority in the Oval Office since day one.
"This has really been on the front burner from a foreign perspective, although not in the public eye necessarily, since the very beginning," Nosanchuk said. "This is not an issue of the day, this is really an issue of the presidency."
Robert Creamer, a member of the liberal political shop Democracy Partners who was also featured on the conference call, told participants they need to prepare for "a real war" against skeptics of the White House’s diplomacy.
Nosanchuk’s role in organizing the call is generating controversy and suspicions that the White House is targeting the Jewish community as part of its campaign against critics who accuse the administration of having made excessive concessions to Iran.
"Why is @WhiteHouse "Jewish Liaison" @MattNosanchuk leading #IranDeal charge?" the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran tweeted following the initial Free Beacon report on the call. "Concerns ALL Americans."
One senior official at a D.C.-based Jewish organization said there was nothing surprising about the White House’s strategy.
"This is a White House that has, from the very beginning of nuclear negotiations with Iran, used whatever Jewish groups it could find as cover for making staggering concessions to the Iranians," said the official, who would only speak on background, citing concerns that the administration has been known to retaliate against critics in the Jewish world. "Apparently some groups haven’t learned their lesson yet—or, like J Street, don’t seem to want to learn."
President Barack Obama acknowledged in an interview months ago that the deal would, after roughly a decade, leave Iran months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
Another official with an advocacy group that has been critical of the administration’s Iran policy also expressed displeasure that the administration’s Jewish liaison is coordinating efforts to back the Iran deal.
"It leaves a bad taste in the mouth that the White House Jewish Liaison is leading efforts to sell the Iran deal to the American public," said the source, who also expressed fear about discussing the issue on record. "This is a matter that concerns all Americans. It seems the administration sees advantages in compartmentalizing this as a Jewish, pro-Israel issue instead of a broader national security one."
U.S. and Iranian negotiators agreed on Tuesday to extend the talks for a second time as the two sides attempt to resolve key differences and secure a final deal.
Iranian officials continue to insist that the United States "give up their excessive demands."
Tehran maintains that economic sanctions must be lifted in full before international inspectors are given entry to its military facilities.